“The Vast Difference” – Theatrikos Flagstaff

This review aired on KBAQ June 10, 2010


Theatrikos Theatre Co.
Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff’s stalwart and ambitious community theater, Theatrikos, is presenting the Arizona premiere of actor/playwright Jeff Daniels’ “The Vast Difference” in a competent, if undistinguished, staging.

Daniels, known primarily as a Broadway and film star, has also developed a playwrighting career. “The Vast Difference” is a fast-paced, funny, social commentary about George Noonan, a flight attendant, who struggles to find his life’s purpose. The father of five girls, George is begged by his loving wife, Rita, to get a much needed vasectomy. George decides to see urologist Dr. Hala Howard. This selection flairs insecurities and fears about being snipped by a woman. While he agonizes over the decision, George turns Dr. Howard into a quasi-psychotherapist.

George’s opinionated dead father, Earl, a barber, shows up in his thoughts to further confuse his choice and assorted men in his life show up to render biased opinions that further confuse George.

Daniels loads the sharp, pointed, and topical script with clever satiric slams, barbs, and one-liners. The Theatrikos staging misses the best humor with misplaced timing and actors who aren’t always up to the zany comedy style. The up and down performance has some solid scenes while others lack the comedic zing and the rapid-fire delivery necessary to draw audience laughter.

The small crowd didn’t react to much of the humor and only occasionally laughed uproariously, a comment on the less than perfect production. Mickey Mercer’s laggardly paced staging doesn’t help and the play’s style is beyond some of the cast’s ability.

Dennis Hattem delivers an accomplished performance as Earl, George’s flippant father, and makes the rest of the cast’s comic shortcomings more glaring because Hattem understands comedy timing. Scott Ballou has his moments as George. Local theatergoers will remember Ballou from his Southwest Shakespeare Company performances before he moved to Flagstaff. He gets most of George’s comedy even if his fellow actors don’t always give him much to play off. He’s especially good in the second act when the script gives George a bit of poignant nostalgia about his father and the difficulties of their relationship. Of the actors who essay the other characters in George’s life, best is Corey Wegwert who has the off-the-cuff comedy styling necessary to make this script successful. Dialogue fumbles plagued the performance.

“The Vast Difference” is an insightful but funny look into a contemporary guy trying to figure out where he belongs in a complicated life within an unforgiving society. It continues through June 27 in downtown Flagstaff. For tickets, call the Theatrikos box office at 928-774-1662 or order online at www.theatrikos.com.

Grade: C